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Francona has Drew sit one out

Offspeed pitches throwing him off

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / May 5, 2011

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Acknowledging the struggles of J.D. Drew, who was 1 for 16 in the previous five games, Red Sox manager Terry Francona gave the right fielder last night off.

Francona started Mike Cameron and penciled him into the No. 7 spot in the batting order, noting that Cameron was 2 for 2 lifetime vs. Angels starter Ervin Santana.

Drew also has struck out 22 times, which ranks third on the team behind Jacoby Ellsbury (27) and Kevin Youkilis (28).

“He’s been scuffling a little bit, and I want him to play tomorrow,’’ Francona said. “Cam’s got some hits off this guy, and I want to keep Cam sharp.’’

Asked why he felt Drew has been struggling, Francona said, “A lot of offspeed that he’s been out in front of. I still think he’s battling the strike zone a little bit. Pretty stubborn. Got a pretty good eye. But if he doesn’t think he can hit it, he’s not going to swing.

“When he’s good, he’s banging that ball off the left-center-field wall. That’s when he’s really locked on. Hopefully that’ll come soon.’’

Welcome Matt Francona lauded reliever Matt Albers, saying the righthander “has been a blessing for us.’’ Since being activated April 21 from the disabled list (latissimus strain), Albers has made seven appearances and pitched 9 2/3innings, allowing 1 earned run on 5 hits with 5 walks and 8 strikeouts. “He’s come in and thrown strikes,’’ said Francona. “A lot of life on his two-seamer. Can pitch multiple innings.’’ Asked if Albers had earned the manager’s confidence, Francona replied, “He deserves it. He’s pitched in some high-leverage situations. He’s getting outs. You can’t have too much of that.’’ Albers relieved Beckett after the rain delay to start the fifth inning and pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Back to the bench With Marco Scutaro pressing Jed Lowrie for playing time at shortstop, Francona doesn’t necessarily believe it is an ongoing competition.

“I don’t think it matters,’’ he said. “I’m sure it does to Scoot and Jed, but I don’t think it matters how I talk about it. I did talk to Scoot about it the other day, because Jed’s been playing a lot. I think Scoot knows that we’re not going to forget about him and think he’s still a really good player, but Jed’s swung the bat so well there’s no way we couldn’t play him.’’

For the most part, Scutaro has handled what amounts to a demotion in a professional manner.

“I just try to be ready when I get my chance,’’ he said. “Like I’ve said, I have no control over that stuff. The only thing I can control is when I see my name in the lineup to try and do my best.’’

Scutaro found himself in the lineup on short notice Tuesday night when Kevin Youkilis came up with what he called “a 24-hour bug.’’ But with Youkilis back last night, Scutaro went back to his reserve role.

“Marco’s a good player,’’ Francona said. “He’s just caught in a situation where Pedey’s an everyday player, Youk’s an everyday player, and [Adrian] Gonzalez plays every day and we need to find a way to get Jed in there.’’

Stretch him out After Bobby Jenks made the self-diagnosis that he “was coming off the ball’’ following his flawed appearance in Sunday’s win over the Mariners, Francona said Jenks and pitching coach Curt Young had come up with a solution. “You may see him throw out of the stretch a little bit more, just for the time being,’’ Francona said. “I think it’s a little bit simplified. Sometimes out of the stretch, things are a little more compact.’’ . . . When Youkilis got struck on the left hand by a pitch from Santana in the fourth inning last night, it marked the 71st time in his career he’d been hit by a pitch, tying Mo Vaughn’s club record . . . The game was delayed by rain in the top of the fifth inning. When the grounds crew came out at 8:30 p.m., Fenway officials used the delay to showcase the high-definition videoboard in center field, giving fans a peek at the Bruins-Flyers playoff game from TD Garden . . . John Lackey goes up against his former team today when he opposes Joel Pineiro . . . The Twins arrive for a four-game series tomorrow, and in Monday’s series finale, Josh Beckett will face Francisco Liriano, who no-hit the White Sox Tuesday.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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